September 12, 2016

The Sights and Sounds of Diversity of Mayo Clinic

By Andrew M. Harrison

By Domenic F. Fraboni and Andrew M. Harrison

There I was (DFF). Standing in front of the crowd that had gathered at Mayo Clinic College of Medicine's Annual Diversity Welcome Reception on Wednesday, September 07, 2016. I may have been one of a handful of people in that room that had never lived outside of Minnesota. A good number of the individuals in the room had even lived or grown up outside the country. I also don’t have what I call great surface diversity. This is what most individuals may think of when they think of diversity: race, ethnicity, and culture (and I would say rightfully so as it is a significant component of diversity). By that standard, I represent the majority here in Rochester and Minnesota. What could I say to help a group of people from out of state (or country) feel more comfortable here in Rochester? I suppose I could simply start with what caused me to gravitate to Mayo Clinic for my graduate education: Mayo Clinic's Shields (practice, education, and research).

When I was pursuing acceptance into a Physical Therapy program, my journey found me interviewing at Mayo Clinic. It was here that I first learned about the Three Shields. I loved the incredible value Mayo Clinic put into education and research. They sold me on the importance of these two facets, aka the first two shields, in quality patient care. It was when they revealed what the third shield meant that made me mentally start packing my bags to come to Rochester. Patient-centered care. This is what the center and largest shield in the Mayo Clinic logo represents. This showed me that no matter what the research says and regardless of the amount of education a physician and/or clinician has, Mayo Clinic understands that we are in the "business" of the people's health; not disease. This was the point when, even before I had been accepted into the program, I knew I had to have my physical therapy education here. This is what I told the people that I was fortunate enough to say a few words in front of that evening. I went on to share that since coming to Mayo Clinic, my experiences here have undoubtedly helped me realize the depth that encompasses this thing we call diversity. It is important to realize the amount that we can learn from those who are different than us, and how as a medical center, this intra-diversity education helps us paint a beautiful, comprehensive, and cohesive tapestry that is our Mayo Clinic community. This is what I have to share.

The event as a whole was the perfect opportunity for newbies (new students), veterans (returning students), faculty, and staff alike to mingle, enjoy “heavy hors d’oeuvres” (basically a three course meal complete with dessert and drinks), and talk about great ways to incorporate themselves into a potentially very new community and culture here in central Minnesota. I got to have a discussion in depth with one post-baccalaureate student in particular, Roberto Lopez Cervera. Roberto was born in the Yucatan region of Mexico and moved to Los Angeles with his family when he was six years old. Coming from this background, and moving from a city that is very culturally and ethnically diverse, Roberto said that it was a major culture shock coming to Rochester, smack dab in the middle of rural Minnesota. He also shared with me that he thinks one of the most challenging tasks for some physicians is relating to and understanding those patients who come from different cultures (again pointing at the importance of that patient-centered shield we have).

Sixth year graduate student and PhD candidate, Jennifer Arroyo, also stood up and gave a welcome to all the newbies in the crowd and spoke about her experience coming to Mayo Clinic. She shared a piece of advice that was given to her while she was here for the Initiative for Maximizing Student Diversity program. She was told early on to find herself a mentor, but not just any mentor would do. The trick would be to find a mentor who really understands you as an individual, as a professional, and understands your specific needs to succeed in your chosen field. Yes, there are difficulties for women and individuals from underrepresented populations to find mentors from their exact background in their intended occupation (discussed some in this previous blog post). However, I believe that in our Mayo Clinic community we have plenty of individuals who are able and willing to provide that mentorship to anyone asking. Hopefully, these mentors can help more aspiring graduate students from underrepresented populations reach for and succeed in obtain positions higher and higher in their fields. Only at this point will we have achieved the true strength that diversity can bring to the medical field.

To come full circle, I may not be the most visually diverse person that was at the Diversity Welcome Reception. Nonetheless, it is occasions like these that help me realize that I still am able to add at least one unique paintbrush stroke to an already incredible painted canvas. I think I made the right choice coming here. I hope you feel the same way too. “Within its walls all classes of people, the poor as well as the rich, without regard to color or creed, shall be cared for without discrimination” –Dr. William J. Mayo (October 09, 1912). Wow pretty radical talking there for his time. I guess it makes sense why Mayo Clinic is constantly pioneering countless different avenues in the medical world.

Dr. Vivian Pinn

Earlier this day, Vivian W. Pinn, MD (NIH Senior Scientist Emerita) gave Mayo Clinic's Annual Elizabeth Blackwell Lecture: "Perspectives on Women’s Health and Women in Biomedical Careers:  The Road Traveled but With Miles to Go!" (Mayo Clinic intranet only). I think she would have enjoyed this event as well. (Photo by AMH)

DFF is someone who has played too many sports, but not taken enough blows to the head (AMH). In the style of Kyle D. Traynor, MD (Mayo Clinic Department of Obstetrics & Gynecology), "fancy doctors" refer to these as concussions. As for Joseph E. Parisi, MD (Departments of Laboratory Medicine & Pathology and Neurology), one of our living legends of Neuropathology, and one of the most empathetic/compassionate clinicians I have ever met (noteworthy because pathologists are not clinicians…), I suspect he might read this and wonder: Where has the music gone? I most enjoyed the performance of Take Five, by Paul Desmond & the Dave Brubeck Quartet (Time Out, 1959), on tenor saxophone by Ryan C. Donohue—PhD student training with Roberto Cattaneo, PhD (Departments of Molecular Medicine and Biochemistry & Molecular Biology)—and Eric Straubmuller on piano (The Ryan Donohue and Eric Straubmuller Duet). Without the passion and diversity of music, where is the fun in life? As host of the greatest Swiss National Day (aka Flag Day) this side of the pond, I was pleased to see Dr. Cattaneo at this event as well, although I am uncertain of his taste in music.

Thanks to Ryan, I was reminded, and thus forced to dig through crates of relic texts that night, to find my 2009 copy of the Charlie Parker Omnibook (1978 reprint). Although I referenced Charlie Parker in the post above as one of the greatest minds who ever lived, in his youth at the time, recently deceased alto saxophonist Phil Woods spoke of how Charlie Parker once asked him, out of concern: "Did you eat today?" As a prolific "consumer" of DFF's business of healthcare, in all the endless questions of disease, diagnoses, and labels, I will never forget the one and only time a (non-clinician) physician asked me a similar question. Shortly before Parker's young death, Woods also spoke of "the greatest lesson I ever had" when Parker made "even the [neck] strap sound good" playing Harlem Nocturne. This is music. This is passion. This is diversity. In a time when diversity barely was.

Next year I hope to hear Ryan perform Harlem Nocturne, but only in the style of the original 1939 composition written for the Ray Noble orchestra. This is education. Born before diversity even was, I end with the beautiful voice of the great scholar, educator, and even athlete, Paul Robeson: Shenandoah.

Mayo Clinic Jacksonville Piano

Piano of musical genius Lou Corbin (aka Lou Clayton): Volunteer at Mayo Clinic Jacksonville (FL), retired lawyer, retired trial judge, and blind since childhood accident. (Photo by AMH) I was entertained earlier this year by his bench-side refusal, as well as subsequent Supreme Court-style decision/opinion, to perform Night in Tunisia, even though he sang Saint James Infirmary. Ex post facto law (of sorts), at least the previous appeal was submitted one year prior to my birth.

Domenic F. Fraboni and Andrew M. Harrison are co-managers of Mayo Clinic's Diversity in Education Blog.

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